If you’ve seen new reason code N793 on your Medicare remittance advice lately and wonder what it is, you now know it relates to the new Medicare card.
The description for N793 is:
Alert: CMS is changing from the Medicare Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN aka “hickin”) to the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). You can use either the HICN or MBI during this transition period.
You’ve probably been bombarded with Medicare news releases and Open Door Forums describing the change and the timeline, but if not, here are some helpful links:
2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2017 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.
Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.
On October 18, 2016, the Social Security Administration announced that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits will be 0.3 percent for 2017. Because of the low Social Security COLA, a statutory “hold harmless” provision designed to protect seniors, will largely prevent Part B premiums from increasing for about 70 percent of beneficiaries. Among this group, the average 2017 premium will be about $109.00, compared to $104.90 for the past four years.
For the remaining roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will be $134.00 for 2017, a 10 percent increase from the 2016 premium of $121.80. Because of the “hold harmless” provision covering the other 70 percent of beneficiaries, premiums for the remaining 30 percent must cover most of the increase in Medicare costs for 2017 for all beneficiaries. This year, as in the past, the Secretary has exercised her statutory authority to mitigate projected premium increases for these beneficiaries, while continuing to maintain a prudent level of reserves to protect against unexpected costs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with Congress as it explores budget-neutral solutions to challenges created by the “hold harmless” provision.
“Medicare’s top priority is to ensure that beneficiaries have affordable access to the care they need,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “We will continue our efforts to improve affordability, access, and quality in Medicare.”
Medicare Part B beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision include beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security benefits, those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017, those who are directly billed for their Part B premium, those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and have their premium paid by state Medicaid agencies, and those who pay an income-related premium. These groups represent approximately 30 percent of total Part B beneficiaries.
CMS also announced that the annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will be $183 in 2017 (compared to $166 in 2016).
Medicare Part A Premiums/Deductibles
Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.
The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,316 per benefit period in 2017, an increase of $28 from $1,288 in 2016. The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $329 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization ($322 in 2016) in a benefit period and $658 per day for lifetime reserve days ($644 in in 2016). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $164.50 in 2017 ($161 in 2016).
Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to receive coverage under Medicare Part A. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $227 in 2017, a $1 increase from 2016. Uninsured aged and certain individuals with disabilities who have exhausted other entitlement and who have less than 30 quarters of coverage will pay the full premium, which will be $413 a month, a $2 increase from 2016.
The advance beneficiary notice (ABN) is a powerful tool for practices to educate patients about their benefits and responsibilities for Medicare non-covered services. Many of our readers still write us to ask questions about the form and the correct way to use it in the office, so we developed this Frequently Asked Questions list for the ABN to clear up some of the confusion.
We always tell the physicians we work with: “If you are going to accept insurance, you need to be the expert on insurance.” In practice this means knowing your patient’s benefits and working with them to communicate with them about what, if anything, they will owe before or after payer adjudication. No one enjoys being surprised about money!
The ABN is also a tremendous opportunity to talk about financial responsibilitieswith a patient. If you don’t have a credit card on file program in your practice, it’s important to be proactive about patient financial responsibilities and how they will be handled. Having a patient sign that they understand they will be financially responsible for payment for a non-covered service is a natural way to start that process.
Here are some of your most frequently asked ABN questions.
What is the ABN? What does it do?
The ABN was originally developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make sure Medicare patients were aware that if they received services that were not covered by Medicare, payment for these services would be their responsibility. By signing the ABN, the patient agrees that if Medicare (or other payer) does not pay the physician then the patient will have to pay for it. The document affirms that the patient knows they could be required to pay out of pocket. Once the ABN is signed, if you are sure Medicare won’t pay you can (and probably should) collect the patient portion listed on the form immediately. You can charge in full for the services if the ABN is signed, however the service is self-pay at that point, so I always suggest you charge your self-pay rate.
What won’t Medicare pay for?
The classic example is an annual physical, which many people assume is part of their Medicare coverage. Medicare will pay for an initial “Welcome to Medicare” visit, as well as an “Annual Wellness” visit, but the key word to hear is “visit”. These are not physical examinations. If a patient wants a physical, they will need to sign an ABN before the service saying they understand that Medicare will not pay for it. Other things that Medicare will not pay for include services without specific medical need, like labs or imaging diagnostics without diagnoses that are accepted as medically necessary. Medicare will also only pay for certain services at regular intervals, for example women who are considered “low risk” for cervical cancer can only receive a pap smear every 24 months. Note that you are not required by Medicare to get an ABN signed for services that are never covered, such as the annual physical, however, it pays to be absolutely clear when discussing payments, so I suggest you get an ABN signed by the patient regardless.
Should we just have everybody sign an ABN?
No. The ABN is to be used in specific instances for a specific service. You cannot require a patient to sign a “blanket” ABN for the year, just in case. If Mr. Smith wants a service that Medicare is unlikely to, or definitely will not pay for and the physician is comfortable ordering or performing the service, a staff member should present an ABN to Mr. Smith for that specific day’s procedure, before it is performed. If the patient is a having a series of recurring services that will not be covered, you can have one ABN signed for up to twelve months of the specific service. An example of this might be a series of physical therapy sessions. The ABN is not a catch- all to protect from denial, however, and persistent misuse will not only be denied, but could open the door to an audit.
We are a small, busy practice; that sounds like a lot of work!
It is a lot of work for a practice! Many practices choose to not use the ABN rather then work out a protocol to implement it. The practice has to have a system in place so that the physician or staff member can explain the situation, fill out the form, answer the patient’s questions and file the ABN for posterity (they have to be kept seven years, like other records). It can be the physician in a micropractice, or a dedicated billing or customer service employee in a larger setting. Also, a note has to be made of the ABN signing in the patient’s chart so that modifiers can be added to the CPT codes for billing.
Are ABNs for Medicare only?
No. You can also have a patient sign an ABN for a private payer. This helps the patient to understand that if their insurance doesn’t cover the service specified, the patient will have to pay for it. Medicare requires an ABN be signed in order to bill the patient, but for patients with private insurance it’s still a great opportunity to talk about non-covered services, deductibles, copays, coinsurance or any past balances if you haven’t already. A few private payers actually require a waiver/ABN to bill patients for non-covered services – check your contract to be sure.
Mary Pat has created a generic non-Medicare ABN; if you’d like a copy for $20, just email Mary Pat and she can send you one.
UPDATED INFO: These recorded webinars are now available here.
On July 9, 2015 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CCJR) model, a proposed payment, quality, and care improvement initiative for hip and knee replacements.
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMS Innovation Center) will host two offerings of a webinar to describe the proposed rule and respond to questions. The dates and registration links for these webinars are as follows:
First, the game-changing announcement below means that a sigh of relief is in order. Some of the anxiety surrounding potential financial disaster should be abated. CMS announced:
“Medicare review contractors [MACs and RACs] will not deny physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Part B physician fee schedule through either automated medical review or complex medical record review based solely on the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code as long as the physician/practitioner used a valid code from the right family.” (see FAQ2 below)
Second, we think it means that the sword rattling coming from the AMA and other individuals should subside. The fact that the CMS changes are based on recommendations from the AMA, which has been adamantly opposed to the ICD-10 mandate for years, is no less unexpected than the lion laying down with the lamb.
Regardless of the changes, the AMA’s previous assertion that ICD-10 “will create significant burdens on the practice of medicine with no direct benefit to individual patients’ care” still stands. The transition is inevitable, in my mind, but the changes will lessen the burden on physicians.
In the announcement from CMS, the clarification was made that
“In accordance with the coming transition, the Medicare claims processing systems will not have the capability to accept ICD-9 codes for dates of services after September 30, 2015, nor will they be able to accept claims for both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes.”
Third, CMS will name a CMS ICD-10 Ombudsman to triage and answer questions about the submission of claims. The ICD-10 Ombudsman will be located at CMS’s ICD-10 Coordination Center.
Also, mark your calendars! CMS will have a provider call on August 27th to discuss these changes.
See the answers below provided by CMS in their new FAQs published this week.
Q1. What if I run into a problem with the transition to ICD-10 on or after October 1st 2015?
A1. CMS understands that moving to ICD-10 is bringing significant changes to the provider community. CMS will set up a communication and collaboration center for monitoring the implementation of ICD-10. This center will quickly identify and initiate resolution of issues that arise as a result of the transition to ICD-10. As part of the center, CMS will have an ICD-10 Ombudsman to help receive and triage physician and provider issues. The Ombudsman will work closely with representatives in CMS’s regional offices to address physicians’ concerns. As we get closer to the October 1, 2015, compliance date, CMS will issue guidance about how to submit issues to the Ombudsman.
Q2. What happens if I use the wrong ICD-10 code, will my claim be denied?
A1. While diagnosis coding to the correct level of specificity is the goal for all claims, for 12 months after ICD-10 implementation, Medicare review contractors will not deny physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Part B physician fee schedule through either automated medical review or complex medical record review based solely on the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code as long as the physician/practitioner used a valid code from the right family. However, a valid ICD-10 code will be required on all claims starting on October 1, 2015. It is possible a claim could be chosen for review for reasons other than the specificity of the ICD-10 code and the claim would continue to be reviewed for these reasons. This policy will be adopted by the Medicare Administrative Contractors, the Recovery Audit Contractors, the Zone Program Integrity Contractors, and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor.
Q3. What happens if I use the wrong ICD-10 code for quality reporting? Will Medicare deny an informal review request?
A3. For all quality reporting completed for program year 2015 Medicare clinical quality data review contractors will not subject physicians or other Eligible Professionals (EP) to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), Value Based Modifier (VBM), or Meaningful Use 2 (MU) penalty during primary source verification or auditing related to the additional specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code, as long as the physician/EP used a code from the correct family of codes. Furthermore, an EP will not be subjected to a penalty if CMS experiences difficulty calculating the quality scores for PQRS, VBM, or MU due to the transition to ICD-10 codes. CMS will not deny any informal review request based on 2015 quality measures if it is found that the EP submitted the requisite number/type of measures and appropriate domains on the specified number/percentage of patients, and the EP’s only error(s) is/are related to the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code (as long as the physician/EP used a code from the correct family of codes). CMS will continue to monitor the implementation and adjust the timeframe if needed.
Q4. What is advanced payment and how can I access this if needed?
A4. When the Part B Medicare Contractors are unable to process claims within established time limits because of administrative problems, such as contractor system malfunction or implementation problems, an advance payment may be available. An advance payment is a conditional partial payment, which requires repayment, and may be issued when the conditions described in CMS regulations at 42 CFR Section 421.214 are met. To apply for an advance payment, the Medicare physician/supplier is required to submit the request to their appropriate Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC). Should there be Medicare systems issues that interfere with claims processing, CMS and the MACs will post information on how to access advance payments. CMS does not have the authority to make advance payments in the case where a physician is unable to submit a valid claim for services rendered.
NOTE: Watch for upcoming posts on ICD-10 websites and apps that I am rating for their usefulness. We will also be producing free webinars on translating the diagnoses on your superbills, picklists and cheat sheets for ICD-10 – stay tuned!
There’s a lot of talk today about how physicians (and other care entities) are paid. This slide deck discusses how the system used predominantly today (RBRVS) to pay physicians came to be and how Medicare and other payers calculate a payment. Download this Slide Deck and learn about Relative Value Units.
On Friday, February 1st, The Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their final regulations on the Physician Payment Sunshine Act that was passed as a part of Heathcare Reform in 2010. The PPSA or “Sunshine Act” mandates that any manufacturer of medical supplies, medical equipment or pharmaceuticals will disclose to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) any payments, gifts, or “transfers of value” over $10. The resulting disclosures will be publicly available in a database of transactions so that there will be “sunshine” on any financial relationships, direct or indirect, between providers and manufacturers. All of the disclosure requirements are the responsibility of the vendor, but the public nature of the resulting data has implications for day to day operations in your practice, as well as any relationships you might have with prominent manufacturers.
If you read my alert from August or the followup article on Audit Red Flags to Avoid, you are aware that CMS hired an accounting firm, Figliozzi & Company, to audit the compliance of eligible providers and eligible hospitals that had already received payment under the meaningful use (MU) program. According to a report from the GAO as many as 20% of eligible providers and 10% of eligible hospitals may be audited, on a post-payment basis to confirm that they actually met the requirements of the program.
I recently had the opportunity to interview a physician that is currently going through the audit process with Figliozzi & Company (an edited transcript of the interview can be found here). Although he wishes to remain anonymous, he was willing to report on his experience and provide redacted copies of the correspondence and requests that he has received from the auditors. (more…)
Hospice care focuses on improving the quality of life for persons and their families faced with a life-limiting illness. The primary goals of hospice care are to provide comfort, relieve physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, and promote the dignity of terminally ill persons. Hospice care neither prolongs nor hastens the dying process. As such, it is palliative not curative. Hospice care is a philosophy or approach to care rather than a place. Care may be provided in a person’s home, nursing home, hospital, or independent facility devoted to end-of-life care.